Seasons die because of plays like this.
Fortunately for the Michigan hockey team, plays like this are what define the often mind-boggling talent of Josh Blackburn.
When Jeff Jillson coughed-up the puck in the Ferris State zone at the 9:15 mark of the second period Friday night, the progression of events worked like dominos.
With Jillson caught, the Bulldogs had numbers on a rush, and the puck quickly found its way to the stick of the hard-charging Rob Collins. The Wolverines peeled back desperately, but to no avail Collins was in alone.
Blackburn crouched at the tip of the crease, poised to defend his nest. Ferris State had trimmed a 3-0 deficit to one goal not 20 seconds earlier another goal and who knows? A series, much less a game, could turn on a quick equalizer.
If one heart in Yost refused to stop beating it was Blackburn”s. A quick flash of the pads stopped the wrist shot and Ferris State”s upset hopes.
“Those aren”t things that are in the script and certainly they shouldn”t happen, but they happen,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “I think our players on the bench are confident he will make that save and we”re not surprised when he does, but there”s no question that it gives us a big lift.”
It was just the right save, at just the right moment, in just the right game, at just the right time of year. The Wolverines stumbled into this year”s CCHA Tournament much was said over the past month, but nothing was done. In delicate, Jenga-block situations like these, a play like Blackburn”s might just jump-start a season.
If nothing else, Michigan put its mouth guard back in and started swinging.
The Wolverines” scoring machine threw it back into hyper-drive after Blackburn”s denial, scoring three more times in the period.
“That was huge, just huge,” Mike Cammalleri said. “They score and it”s a whole new ballgame. Blackie is the kind of player who comes up with the big save I can”t even describe how big a momentum builder that is, now we”re going the other way and able to get a goal.”
Blackburn”s numbers for this game were not awesome, impressive, or even kind of good. Three goals off of 16 shots. But consider this Michigan”s stellar defensive corps does not allow Blackburn much work on most nights.
When a shot is steered at the junior netminder, he often relies on an athleticism that remains untapped most of the time.
The measure of a “playoff hot” goaltender relies not so much on the number of shots saved, but on the quality of the saves. Blackburn made every save he could this weekend, and a few saves most goaltenders probably couldn”t.
That breeds confidence, which spawns wins. Blackburn came back with a shutout the next night. Coincidence?
A showing like this “is real important and I like the way Josh competed,” associate coach Mel Pearson said. “He”s a playoff-tested goalie and he”s been really good in the NCAA Tournament for us.”
If Friday was any indication, he”ll continue to be.